DME Music Site recently conducted an in-depth interview with legendary heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio (BLACK SABBATH, RAINBOW, DIO). Several excerpts from the chat follow:
DME: This is the first time you go to the Middle East. Still, you used the Eastern inflections before, in songs like "Egypt" or "Gates Of Babylon". Where did that come from?
Ronnie: "Because we don't live in that area of the world, I think it's a very mysterious place to us. Of course, it has been mysterious through our history, with all the writings from the Middle East, the Bible, all of the Biblical stories — from all religions, really. I think that that's one thing that I like to do: I like the idea of having to use your imagination to think for yourself what that area is all about. And that's just from historical aspect — but I love the Middle Eastern scales and just the attitude of the music as well. So a piece is written that's very influenced by the Middle Eastern music — that I think is the only thing you can write about — it's things like 'Egypt' or 'Stargazer'."
DME: And whose music do you love?
Ronnie: "Those who influenced me were DEEP PURPLE, LED ZEPPELIN — mainly English bands of that era, but especially PURPLE and ZEPPELIN. That's what made me want to do this more and more, and more, because the first band I was in back then, ELF, were much more a kind of honky tonk rock 'n' roll band, but I always wanted to be able to play heavier music. I loved their musicianship — I thought they were the best musicians on Earth! — those were the people I really cared about when I was into this kind of music."
DME: What about now? Is there any song recently that you found yourself walking about and humming along?
Ronnie: "Last couple I can remember that were like that for me were THE DARKNESS — the song that was played on MTV all the time, that was interesting, and I kind of hummed along — but the one I liked the best was by the band called EVANESCENCE: I listened to their album and I like what they do. That's the only things that I was singing along with lately. (Laughs)"
DME: And your songs: is it because of your unique voice that they are so rarely covered?
Ronnie: "I think that's an effect of the songs I've written, they're very difficult to do. Some are okay, but most of the songs are very difficult to do for vocalists. And probably, most of it is because of my uniqueness, because that what I am, and I think it's difficult for people to cope with what I am. I've invented myself, which I thought was important, I took my strengths, the things that I did well, and I applied them to the songs that we've written - not to make them difficult but that's just the way I think. I think in a lot more orchestral terms, I lot more in melodic terms than most singers do, and I'm able to do it."
DME: You've written, I guess, several hundreds of songs. But if you were to pick the most cherished lyric what would that be?
Ronnie: "I think, probably, a part of the song 'Heaven And Hell': 'the world is full of kings and queens who blind your eyes and steal your dreams, it's Heaven and Hell', because to me that speaks about what happens to musicians. That was obvious that there are people in this world who always going to try and take advantage of you - and do take advantage of you. Those kings and queens are the people who think that they are so important, who want to take advantage of you, and that makes your life Heaven and Hell. Promises that you're going to get [is] the Heaven part, and Hell [is] when they don't come real. Just off the top of my head, that's my favorites."
DME: I don't feel good about pushing you and Ritchie Blackmore towards RAINBOW reunion. I think Ritchie's happy with what he's doing now, and that's great, while you're happy with your thing as well.
Ronnie: "Oh yeah, I totally agree. I know that Ritchie is not going to [do it] because he likes very much what he's doing, it's a place that he wants to be in. And it's not something that I would look forward to, either. It's not a problem between Ritchie and myself, of course: you know, we've never had any problems at all — some people find him very difficult, and I never found him difficult at all, I found him to be just a genius as a player and a genius as a writer. He just wanted some perfection, and that's the way it's supposed to be, so we never had a problem with that. we've only had nothing but respect for each other. That wouldn't have been a problem. But I think what would be a problem is stopping what both of us are doing just for the sake of doing one concert. I've always thought that if RAINBOW was going to get back together, it should certainly be a tour and an album. But now that Cozy Powell is not there anymore that makes a very big difference too: without Cozy, it would just be Ritchie and I, and I think it was necessary to have Cozy there. So it's not something that everybody wants to happen again."
DME: But what is it that you think makes people want RAINBOW to reunite?
Ronnie: "Well, it was such a great band! It was a band that influenced so many other bands. I mean, to this day, after all these years — I don't know how long it's been, thirty years or so — any band that I see, whether they're succesful bands or unsuccessful bands, always say, 'Oh, RAINBOW was the reason why I started to play and, ah, I love those songs that you did.' They were great songs. It was a groundbreaking time. We were the first to do that kind of material, and it influenced people so much that they've just never forgotten it. A great song is a great song, you can't take a great song away."
DME: I must thank you too. It's because of "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll", the song, that I feel in love with the music and eventually became a music journalist.
Ronnie: "See how important I was! I was right! It was very important! (Laughs.) I'm sorry we can't do it for you anymore, I wish we could. But again, we're still do RAINBOW songs in our set. We do RAINBOW songs and we do SABBATH songs because they were such good songs that it seems a shame never to be able to hear them again. And it makes sense because the voice that you've heard doing those songs is still the voice that you hear doing them today and the band plays them so well, and they love them too. So we don't let 'em go away."
Read the entire interview at DMME.net.